WASHINGTON — New research conducted by Quadrant Strategies for the Sugar Association shows consumers are confused about the use of sugar substitutes in packaged food and prefer additional labeling disclosures by food manufacturers.

Consumers fail to recognize sugar substitutes as sweetening ingredients in food and beverages 63% of the time, the research showed, and 69% of consumers believe products labeled “reduced sugar” or “no sugar added” are lower-calorie products.

The research showed that 76% of parents think it is important to know if their food contains sugar substitutes and that 73% of parents think it is important to know the amount of sugar substitutes in that food.

Sixty-six percent of consumers in the study said they think it’s important that food manufacturers be required to clearly identify sugar substitutes as sweeteners in ingredient lists.

Campaign for sweetener transparency infographic“This research shows consumers are interested in knowing what is in their foods and realize that additional, and non-misleading, information is needed for them to make informed decisions about the food products they purchase and consume,” said Courtney Gaine, PhD, president and chief executive officer of the Sugar Association. “This data reinforces our decision to file a Citizen Petition with the FDA asking the agency to extend labeling transparency to the growing range of alternative sweeteners in the food supply.”

Information about sugar substitutes is just as important as information about added sugars, the Sugar Association contends, but current labeling regulations fail to provide consumers accurate and clear information about the use of low- and no-calorie sweeteners.

The Sugar Association on June 3 filed a Citizen Petition with the Food and Drug Administration asking the FDA to require certain changes to food labeling. The petition had five specific requests on which it asked the FDA to issue official industry guidance:

  • Add the term “sweetener” in parentheses after the name of all non-nutritive sweeteners in the ingredient list;
  • Indicate the type and quantity of non-nutritive sweeteners, in mg per serving, on the front of food packages for children’s food and beverages;
  • Require the disclosure, “Sweetened with [name of sweetener(s)] beneath the claim for products making a sugar content claim;
  • Disclose the potential gastrointestinal side effects from the consumption of sugar alcohols and some sugar substitutes in foods at the lowest observed effect levels;
  • Ensure all sugar content claims related to sugar and sugar substitutes are truthful and non-misleading.